New Year, New NHC

430811_620x349Handicapping contest play is a very interesting and unique gamble in the horse racing world. Some seats to the big tournaments, like the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, come with a hefty price tag; some begin with a $10 super satellite entry. Literally every type of horseplayer can be found in the room at the National Handicapping Championship this weekend at Treasure Island.

There is plenty of money on the line as well as bragging rights to the victorious horseplayer, and the top fifty spots pay out at the NHC. 2014’s new format involves three days instead of two, with the top fifty players from Friday & Saturday duking it out Sunday for the grand prize. Gamblers normally left to their own strategies of constructing bets are put on a level playing field with the simple format of $2 Win-Place wagers for fifteen races each of the first two days and ten the third. An entrant’s “bullets” may be used in a combination of mandatory races and those remaining at a number of tracks: Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Santa Anita, Golden Gate, Gulfstream, Oaklawn & Tampa Bay (I’d still love to see a winner step up and thank Portland Meadows for the 1/5 missing the board in a five horse field and sealing the victory.)

Three contestants won their way in at Canterbury. Heidi Snow, our first qualifier of the year, proved victorious in the Road to Kentucky which begins this year on February 1st. The Road to Kentucky is a free contest each Saturday consisting of each race from a designated track (schedule available here) as well as any derby preps that day. Stewart Winograd won his way in this past summer in the Dog Days of Summer contest in August, a Satellite offered near the end of the summer as a conclusion to the series of Super Satellites available each weekend for $10. Terry O’Connor, the final Satellite entrant from Canterbury is a regular contest player in our Super Satellites as well. All contest details are available on our website. Registering for the NTRA tour is step one in reaching the final destination, a simple one-time entry of $50 covers yearlong tournament play. Registration rules here.

I had the privilege this spring of meeting reigning Handicapper of the Year Jim Benes at Hawthorne. Jim is not the type that plays every track, every race. He is very much a specialized Hawthorne player, and sticks to his guns when it comes to contest play. Everyone has a different approach to it but as he exemplifies, one need not stray from their preferred style of play to make it far in these contests. He typically plays “bankroll” contests, allowing for more freedom with types of bets and races covered. Both are used frequently in online contests and on-track contests, but with the format of the NHC he entered a few online $2 W-P ones to “practice”.

Keep an eye on the National Handicapping Championship all weekend via DRF.com or Twitter ( #NHC15) Standings and results are updated frequently. Play the contests at Canterbury and perhaps YOU could be the next Jim Benes! Good luck!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann.

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